Roy Exum: What Friends Are For

Thursday, April 11, 2019 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

I’ve become a huge fan of Nikki Haley, who just stepped down as our Ambassador to the United Nations and, before that, was a champion as the Governor of South Carolina. Not so long ago she wrote a wildly-popular op-ed piece, stating the billions the United States spends in Foreign Aid should only be given to those countries who are friends of ours in the world arena.

I’m willing to bet over 90 percent of America’s taxpayers go along with that. I even loved President Trump’s reasoning: “The United States is the world’s largest giver in the world by far of foreign aid. But few give anything to us,” he said, tasking his administration to “examine what is working, and what is not working, and whether the countries that receive our dollars and our protection also have our interests at heart. We are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends.”

My problem with foreign aid is two-fold. I see too much that needs fixing in the United States, be it illegal aliens, veterans’ affairs, public education, the nation’s highways … the list is endless. But I also believe as the most powerful nation in the world there is an obligation that goes with that – disease control in impoverished nations, the world’s water supply, disaster aid anywhere in the world and so forth. For decades our missionaries have proven Christians have many languages.

When Haley was the UN Ambassador, the great majority of UN members voted against the USA in recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which as a Christian I believe is true. At the time, Haley said she would be “taking names” of the countries that defied the United States. The response ran the gamut, from “America needs to quit being the world’s ATM” to “It’s past time to bulldoze the UN building and drive the lot of losers off American soil.”

Here is an excerpt of what Nikki wrote for Fox News that made such a huge splash, and why I’d like to see her make a run at being the first female president of our country:

* * *

‘AMERICAN FOREIGN AID SHOULD ONLY GO TO OUR FRIENDS’

(Excerpt from an Opinion column posted on Fox News Feb. 28, 2019)

[A large majority of countries voted against the United States …] and there was no immediate consequence for doing so. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t take names. For countries who consistently trash America at the United Nations, there must be consequences, or there will be no changes in their behavior.

In fact, I did more than take names. My team at the U.S. Mission to the UN compiled an exhaustive research book on every country. We looked at how much foreign aid we give to each country, and how often they vote against us in the UN. The results were eye-opening.

I presented the findings to President Trump and he was shocked. So much so that in last year’s State of the Union Address, he referred to this huge gap between what we give to countries and how they treat us in return, saying, “That is why, tonight, I am asking Congress to pass legislation to help ensure American foreign assistance dollars always serve American interests, and only go to America’s friends.”

I could not agree more. Let’s look at two examples.

In 2017, Pakistan received nearly $1 billion in U.S. foreign aid, the sixth most of any country. Much of the aid went to the Pakistani military. Some went for road, highway and energy projects to assist the Pakistani people.

It is more than fair to ask what the U.S. gets in return for our generosity. On all key votes at the UN, Pakistan opposed the American position 76 percent of the time. Much more troubling, Pakistan also has a long history of harboring terrorists who have killed U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Our foreign aid policies are stuck in the past and often operate on auto-pilot without considering the conduct of the countries who receive our aid.

That same year, U.S. taxpayers provided over half a billion dollars to the people and government of South Africa. That’s more than what the entire UN system provided to South Africa that year.

Most of our funds go to a great program for preventing HIV/AIDS. Over the years, we have literally saved the lives of millions of South African citizens. Americans do this because we are a big-hearted nation and it is the right thing to do, not because we expect something in return.

Still, you would think a government that received such life-saving assistance would show some gratitude for our generosity. You would be wrong. South Africa voted against the U.S. position at the United Nations 82 percent of the time – among the worst in the world. What’s more, it is an extremely hostile voice against many critical U.S. interests.

There are many other similar examples.

Congress failed to pass the legislation the president asked for last year, but the administration went ahead with its own full-scale review of U.S. foreign assistance policies. That review, which I participated in before leaving office in January, is long overdue. The administration has already wisely restricted assistance to Pakistan, but there is much more to be done.

Our foreign aid policies are stuck in the past and often operate on auto-pilot without considering the conduct of the countries who receive our aid. The national security bureaucracy is also very dug-in defending the foreign aid programs they administer. But the administration is proceeding. I hope it comes out with its changes soon and strongly.

UN votes should not be the only factor we consider in our foreign aid decisions. We have many humanitarian, economic, diplomatic and military interests that must be weighed. But UN votes should be one factor. If they are not, we will consistently underperform what we are capable of at the UN.

None other than former Secretary of State John Kerry said this about foreign aid: “Foreign assistance is not a giveaway. It’s not charity. It is an investment in a strong America and in a free world. Foreign assistance lifts other people up and then reinforces their willingness to link arms with us in common endeavors.”

I agree. And when foreign aid goes to countries that take our generosity and bite our hand, rather than link up arms with us, it’s time to stop it.

--  Nikki Haley

* * *

FROM THE WASHINGTON POST (March 11, 2019) – “The Trump administration is proposing slashing the budget for the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) by almost 24 percent, with particularly steep cuts to humanitarian aid, refugee assistance and global health programs.

“The proposed 2020 budget would take three funds that collectively are funded by more than $9 billion and consolidate them into an International Humanitarian Assistance fund that would be allotted about $6 billion, a one-third drop. In addition, the administration proposes cutting global health programs from $8.7 billion this year to $6.3 billion next year, a cut of almost 28 percent.”

royexum@aol.com


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